Dismay as move to end ‘rat run’ ditched
Petition scuppers plan to end‘through traffic’
A Perth pressure group has expressed disappointment that a controversial traffic calming measure in the city has been shelved.
As part of the Spaces for People programme, it had been proposed to prevent through traffic from using Balhousie Street and Hay Street.
The move prompted a petition asking for the council to think again, which was signed by 730 people.
A halt has now been called to the project, which was supposed to get underway this week, and new measures aimed at giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists will now be discussed.
But the Perth Area Living Streets (PALS) group said it is “disappointed” that some councillors “effectively supported” the petition.
In a press statement, the group said banning through traffic would stop Balhousie Street being used as a “rat run” for drivers, and said the “progressive” plans were “not even given a chance”.
The petition itself states that the move would have increased journey times and created more pollution.
Signatories claim it would add more traffic to roads like Dunkeld Road.
Felicity Graham, co-convenor of PALS, said: “This opportunity to clean up the North Inch residential area of pollution and traffic has sadly been squandered.
“Councillors could have backed the council’s proposals to make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, especially for the children walking to school in the area.
“Having quiet, clean, safer streets is not the default in Perth. Residents who want this will have to fight for them and against those supporting the status quo of a city dominated by traffic.”
However, in his response Cllr Forbes said elected members had to listen to their communities and not “unrepresentative tiny fringe groups whose membership may not live anywhere near Balhousie Street”.
He said: “From the discussions I have had with locals, I believe that the vast majority of them don’t want this street split and three of the four elected members agree.
“I am proud of the huge investment that’s currently being made in Perth and Kinross to encourage active and sustainable travel, such as the development of Dunkeld Road, numerous 20mph zones, additional cycle ways and extended pavements.
“We must however, in the middle of these huge transformational changes not make the car the enemy. Some people, on some occasions do require to use a car.”
Cllr Chris Ahern said he was never in favour of the move, suggesting it risked “effectively splitting the community in two”.
He added: “I have never said that road calming measures should not be put in place and in fact have agreed with what may be coming forward.
“The ideas that have been suggested will direct cyclists and pedestrian to use the cycle paths and wider pathways of the
North Inch which in my mind is a lot safer, both for cyclists and social distancing.
“The measures will also slow down traffic, preventing them (if they stick to the rules of the road) from speeding along Balhousie Street.
“The 20mph zone will still be in force and the extra measures if they prove successful may be permanent following discussions with the community at a later date.”
Cllr Andrew Parrott said PALS was being “a little but unfair” in its comment.
He added: “While City Centre ward councillors did collectively decide not to go ahead with closing Balhousie Street and Hay Street to through car traffic, we did collectively decide on a number of traffic calming measures that we hope will make Balhousie Street and Hay Street considerably less attractive as rat runs and more attractive to cyclists and pedestrians too.”
Cllr Eric Drysdale said revised proposals were better: “My priorities will always be safety and well being of local residents and the encouragement of Active Travel where possible, and I think the planned changes will deliver on both objectives.”
Cllr Peter Barrett said he supported the measures, adding: “For such a significant change I only received a handful of emails from local residents objecting to the closure and, to be honest, the inconvenience caused was to my mind pretty minor.”
A spokesperson for Perth and Kinross Council said: “Discussions are ongoing with the local elected members to deliver a solution to deterring unnecessary through traffic, improve road safety and to provide improved links for walkers and cyclists.”